Food

Look: Cherries! Oh Happy Day!

by Becky on June 28, 2013

in Food, Travel

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I delight in stopping by the little roadside fruit stands dotting the back roads of Provence. Everywhere, the trees are dripping cherries, and you can get a kilo of them for two or three euros, depending on which kind you’re in the mood for. Yesterday, a friendly man who looked like everyone’s Grandpa was selling them at a table on the side of the road. Enterprising gentleman. Today, we stopped on our way to Forcalquier. This time, the cherry “stand” was the tailgate of a truck, and the man selling his cherries couldn’t have looked happier to be soaking up the late afternoon sun while he waited for passersby to take the bait.

I’ve decided that the right road trip food makes all the difference. Goose kept himself busy digging for the two-fers–cherries whose stem tops are still connected–all afternoon. His hands and mind stayed busy, and his belly got full, crucial items on the “Musts For A Happy Road Trip” list.

If there’s a road trip lesson here, it’s this: stop for happy food, often. And if the food happens to be bright and beautiful, so much the better.

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Pizza Night In Provence

by Becky on June 24, 2013 · 1 comment

in Food, Travel

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Makes perfect sense that my first little dispatch from Provence would involve praise of the local food.  Saturday night we stopped in St. Remy, wandered, got hungry, stumbled onto this pizza wagon, a little outfit calling itself Pizza Pierrot, and the rest is history.  We wolfed down two large pizzas:  a Provencal and an Olive With Ham. I have capitalized the names of both because they deserved capitalization, as all Memorable Meals do!  I believe I could have eaten a whole pizza by myself. The Provencal was especially, well, special:  marinara, roasted vegetables, cheese, and provencal herbs (a bag of which I picked up at the market in Arles earier that day.)

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Folks’ve gotta eat, right? I love it when the right meal just sort of shows up, like it was waiting for us. And who says it wasn’t?

(More pictures and stories to come!)

 

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How Do You Style A Baguette?

by Becky on June 13, 2013

in Food, Travel

Bigote/Mustache

Finding the right baguette can be the work of a day. Or a stay. That is, since our arrival in Barcelona, I have been tireless in my quest to track down the tastiest bread.

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Good news, folks.  I found it!  It’s the Pan Artesanal at the Forn de Pa down the street from Park Güell. Perfect crunch, perfect texture, perfect flavor. We dip it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or slather La Vieja Fabrica’s peach jam on it. Or just carry it around and gnaw on it.

The great thing about a baguette?  You can style it any way you want, as Miss Lavender aptly demonstrates.

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Spanish olive oil has become a new obsession. Some of the lighter, more delicate ones just delight me! During our trip through southern Spain this last week, I saw where it all comes from: the hundreds of thousands of olive trees criss-crossing the countryside. Such beautiful groves . . . everywhere!

So olive oil boutiques like this one, Olimar, across from the Palau de Musica in Barcelona, give me the opportunity to dip, taste, and decide what I want to take home.  Right now there are no fewer than five bottles of Spanish olive oil next to my stovetop.  One of them, infused with basil, is good enough to guzzle straight from the bottle.

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Those who know their product collect their favorites and display them in charming little venues like Olimar, where olive oil novitiates like me can dip their bread, experience the divine, and take home a bottle of whatever speaks to them.

Try this:  drizzle some good Spanish olive oil on a slice from a really good baguette. Add a couple of slices of fresh tomato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Take a bite.  Die of happiness.

Olimar:  C/ Sant Pere Mes Alt, 24, Barcelona.

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We usually eat in, but when we discovered this place, I recognized the stirrings of infatuation and decided that at some point, I’d have to return to sample the goods. Miss Celandine and I stopped in one afternoon for lunch, and of course the infatuation with La Cuina D’en Garriga phased to something much warmer.

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I adore the set-up: a fascinating little grocery area heavy on gourmet items imported from France; an intimate dining area that feels at once totally continental and utterly homey; and a corner stuffed with both kitchen antiques and with the latest in super streamlined kitchen tools.

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So I’m partial to the very functional-slash-elegant canning-style jars that announce the volume of the container in big, white, happy numbers:  250 ml, 450 ml!  Don’t you want a dozen for your refrigerator??  And naturally I’m smitten with the linens.  (I’m often smitten with linens.)  And the food:  hearty, rustic, fresh.  And, and, and.  I could go on and on!  Oh, wait:  I have.

La Cuina D’en Garriga.  C/ Consell de Cent, 308, Barcelona.

 

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In Praise Of Gelato. And What It Does.

by Becky on May 18, 2013

in Food, Travel

Being inveterate foodies, we have our little haunts.  The petals and I love a little place on the edge of Born.  On another occasion, I’ll show it to you.  For now, I’ll give you a peek at what really good gelato does to a couple of girls I know.

Ice Cream Date

Ice Cream Date

Ice Cream Date

Ice Cream Date

Ice Cream Date

It’s all settled, then: gelato turns you into a supremely happy goofball, right alongside the other goofball who shares your birthday, your clothes, your hair nonsense, your Burt’s Bees, your love of the European ephemera you dream of repurposing for a DIY, etcetera, etcetera.

Provecho!

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Remember when you were a little kid, and when someone declared that they loved something, you’d chant, “Then why don’t you marry it!??” Let me just say of Sampaka Chocolates that I am ready to marry again. (No disrespect to my current partner, who is perfectly acceptable and a great Eleven O’Clock Dad.) Take a look at the goods, and you’ll certainly be willing to ratify my decision.

At the Sampaka store and chocolate café in downtown Barcelona, you’ll find artisan chocolates:  bars, truffles, ’tiles,’ creams and spreads, enrobed beans, and more. All divine. All perfectly marriageable. In fact, there is so much love in that place, I’ve watched people walk in, take off their dark glasses, and surrender, right on the spot, the depth of their spontaneous in-love-ness registering on their faces as a kind of beatific adoration, as if they’ve just seen Saint Someone-or-other with their own mortal eyes, except that what they’re probably seeing is the truffle bar.

And may I just gush about those?–the truffles, that is?  Fruit-infused, flower-infused, herb-infused, and the list goes on.  You have never seen–or tasted–such beauty, and believe me, I know my ganaches.

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Or maybe folks are feeling the chocolate-hazelnut cream (which is divine on homemade crepes–just saying).

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Or even the cacao powders for cooking, hot-chocolate-izing, and the like.

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The love grows in the café, where you can sip things both delicate and complex, enjoy gelatos and confections, and generally feel eternally grateful that all this belongs to you by virtue of your having entered into that most sacred of contracts.

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Marriage altar . . . chocolate altar. What’s the difference? Come worship:  Sampaka Chocolates, C/ Consell de Cent, 292, Barcelona.

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Does Your Chocolate Box Need Filling?

by Becky on April 11, 2013

in Food, Travel

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Over by the Barcelona cathedral and about halfway down a narrow street sits a magical place called the Chocolat-Box, a boutique I would have liked to swallow whole. Could have swallowed whole, in fact. Have a look see.

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Several Chocolat-Box shops dot Barcelona. Lucky for me, no? I can now seek chocolate therapy at various spots throughout the city, starting with truffles.

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And moving on to enrobed nuts. (Very therapeutic.)

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Or going for the real calories: a truly religious experience involving generous amounts of chocolate spread on a hunk of baguette (which the nice ladies behind the counter were only too delighted to provide).

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Or is hot chocolate your therapy? How about the perfect spoon, which yields the perfect hot chocolate? (Take your pick.)

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And have you heard of chocolate infused herbal teas??  Certain to put some zen in your day.

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Olive oil? Mm-hmm.

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Yep. It’s all here. Come hungry. Expect enlightenment. Leave a new person. (Promise.)

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Chocolat-Box, C/ Capellans, 2, Barcelona.

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The other night we stepped out for some paella Valenciana. I should point out first that here in Spain, we rarely sit down for a full meal out. With five (perennially) hungry people, eating out often would get pricey for us. But on a particular evening a couple of weeks ago, we got cozy around a table at Eugenio’s place, in Sagunt, where we had spent the afternoon hiking through Roman ruins.

Did I mention we were hungry? There was no way we were going to make it back to Barcelona without real food.

Enter Eugenio, whom I met when I walked into his little restaurant to ask how long it might take for him to make some paella for us.

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Three things struck me as my family clustered around a large table on which sat a large, round pan of the most amazing paella I’ll probably ever be privileged to inhale during my natural lifetime.

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One.  Food makes people talkative.  As we ate, we chatted about the food: how rich it was, and how wonderfully good. But talk about food inevitably phases to talk about other things.  And pretty soon, you’re talking about All Kinds Of Stuff. Together. And between the food and the talk, you realize: Ah!–this is what mealtime is meant to be.  Moreover, sometimes quieter family members find their voice at the table, a distinct bonus.

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Two.  Moments spent eating together go right into each member’s cache of family memories.  Eugenio encouraged us to use the spoons he gave us, not just the forks.  He told us to scrape the bottom of the pan in order to get the socarrat–the layer of rice toasted in meat juices. So each of us scraped away, working to get the socarrat, which, as promised, was indeed rather mindblowingly savory. But it’s not just the taste I’ll remember; it’s all of us cleaning the bottom of the pan together. Food-turned-experience. Food-turned-memory. I believe just about any meal has the potential to be that!

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Three.  Wherever, whenever, whatever–just so it’s the fam.

So it doesn’t have to be paella.  Honest.  Some of our happiest dinner meals involve pancakes and homemade syrup.  The point is that we’re passing the syrup around, to each other. You do it enough times, it becomes a ritual. You learn how each member of the family likes their pancakes fixed: some with the syrup drizzled, some with it around the sides but not on top. As people settle into the meal, they relax, and the chatter starts. And often the laughter. Why people laugh so hard while they eat, I don’t know. If I had to say how many times one of my children had to leave the table because they were laughing so hard milk was about to come out their nose, I couldn’t do it.

It’s that combination of nourishment and family. Nothing beats a decent meal with your own little clan for making life seem downright good for a moment or two.

(Casa Eugenio:  Plaza Peixcateria, Sagunt.  96 266 58 31)

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Xocolates, Anyone? Welcome To Chocolat!

by Becky on March 28, 2013

in Food, Travel

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Welcome to Chocolat, a very special boutique in the San Andreu district of Barcelona.  Spelled the same way as the boutique in that nummy confection of a movie, Chocolat, this little place felt like the movie!

The owner/chocolatier, Josep Manel, who’s been making chocolate for thirty years now, couldn’t have been more gentil–showing us the shop, talking about his techniques, and sampling his products, which are to.  Die.  For.

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The question was what to choose. Salted caramels, perhaps? Yes, they ought to be first.

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Or nuts covered in a delicate blend of cocoa powder, raspberry ‘dust,’ and salt?  (My new and probably eternal favorite.)

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A person can go a little nuts when chocolate mania sets in.

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How about cocoa beans enrobed in chocolate?

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Or some fragrant, artisanal ‘infusions’? (Castillian for herbal teas).

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Stop in:  Chocolat, Exclusivitat Xocolates / Tes.  Located at Mercat 7, 08030, Barcelona. And stay tuned for more chocolate-y bits on the xocolates of Barcelona!

(Xocolate–the Catalan word for chocolate.)

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